Shaun Wade’s Fiesta Bowl came to an abrupt end in the first half of Ohio State’s loss to Clemson. Now, Wade must decide if that moment will be his last in a scarlet and gray uniform.
Wade, a redshirt sophomore, will announce his decision to either declare for the NFL Draft or return to the Buckeye secondary tomorrow at a ceremony in his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida. Whichever route he ultimately decides to pursue, the implications will be felt by the Ohio State defensive staff, particularly whoever is hired to replace the departing Jeff Hafley as the defensive backs coach.
A former five-star recruit in the 2017 recruiting class, Wade flashed his immense potential last season in limited action and was pegged as a breakout candidate heading into 2019. The return of Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette as Ohio State’s top two cornerbacks kept Wade from his natural cornerback position, but he showed great versatility throughout the season, excelling as Ohio State’s nickelback.
Wade’s performance, combined with the elite play of Okudah and the best season of Arnette’s career, played a large role in the Silver Bullets’ resurgence as one of the best defenses in the country. Add in more steady play from safety Jordan Fuller and the secondary restated its claim to the self-proclaimed title of “Best In America.”
Should Wade elect to forego his eligibility and declare for the draft, however, “BIA” will be in need of a complete retooling as not a single starter will have returned to the unit in 2020. Okudah, a first-round lock, announced his decision to declare for the draft on Wednesday. He is joined by Arnette and Fuller, who were seniors this season.
Reserves such as Cam Brown, Amir Riep, Sevyn Banks, and Josh Proctor all saw significant playing time this season, and each played well at times. The dropoff in experience, however, would be among the most pressing question marks the Buckeyes face as they work toward 2020 and what they hope is a return to the College Football Playoff.
Wade’s return would not only bring a tremendous boost in the play-making department, but also in the development of the guys who will be tasked with stepping into the lofty shoes left by the fellow defensive backs.
In the process, he could also cement himself as a bonafide first-round talent; his current projections vary from mid-first round to the second round, as do the contract values that accompany them.
But while there is a sizeable gap in contract value between the two rounds — and even the levels of the first round —Wade would be a multi-millionaire either way, while also entering into a situation where he will be expected to get on the field immediately.
That’s a tough proposition for anyone to turn down, and it at least seems unlikely that Wade will do so. If he does, however, Ohio State will have locked in a critical piece to their 2020 campaign.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.